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After partaking of a meal nearby, I continued to explore the Clerk's Ward. As we walked I also gained an insight into Fall-From-Grace's character, when she spoke to Annah of all people.
"Annah were you raised in the Hive?" Fall-From-Grace asked, in a serene voice with no hint of confrontation.
"Mind your own business, succubus. I've nothing tae say to yeh," Annah replied, irritation and a hint of anger present in her voice.
"Very well, then." It seemed to me that Fall-From-Grace's question indicated more than a sensate's desire for experiences. She was truly committed to the philosophies she espoused, and was willing to offer politeness and consideration to anyone.
Passing down one street, Fall-From-Grace informed me a building we were passing was the Art and Curio Galleria. Inside was displayed a selection of sculptures and paintings.
One painting in particular caused a reaction in me. It was a portrait of a grotesque, hook-nosed old crone. The hag's flesh was a sickly blue-gray color; her eyes glowed red like the embers of a dying fire. Her chin, long and sharp, jutted forward in an extreme under-bite; two yellowed canines protruded upwards from her lower jaw, like small tusks. The smile upon her withered, purplish lips spoke of a horrible secret. A placard read 'Gray Hag of Oinos.'
As I began to turn away from the painting, something in it drew my attention... a strange, tingling sensation arose in the back of my mind... a memory, beginning to surface...
I recalled standing, confused, in a maze of briars. The hideous crone from the painting was before me, cackling wildly. I gritted my teeth in frustration, wondering why she was laughing at me. "My poor, dear, lovely man-thing!" she crooned. "Why, that was your *first* wish!" She pointed a single bony, clawed finger at my forehead. My temples began throbbing painfully......and I could remember nothing more.
I spoke to Yvana, who owned the galleria. She was a well-dressed, elderly woman in a gown of peach-colored and golden thread. She stood quietly, her hands folded together primly. She had no pupils - her eyes were entirely white.
Before I could ask about any of the objects in the galleria, she had a request of me. "One moment, sir... your voice; it is heavy with age and wounds. Would you be so kind as to permit me to touch your face?"
"Yes, go ahead." Yvana smiled, gently running her old hands over the skin of my face. She frowned, looking slightly puzzled.
"So many scars... both old and new. They seem to..." She touched the side of my throat, flushed, then pulled away. "Pardon me, sir. I was curious to see how far they went."
"It's fine. And they're everywhere; my whole body is scarred."
At her nod to continue, I asked if she could see at all. Fall-From-Grace interposed.
"I believe she is blind by choice, and not by circumstance." Yvana nodded, smiling.
"Your friend is quite correct, sir... I cannot see, but only because I do not wish to. In time, I will allow my vision to return so that I can re-experience the contents of my galleria with the benefit of new, fresh eyes."
I asked about the galleria. "Why, it's my galleria of the Planes." She smiled and gestured around her. "These pieces have been brought from far and wide. Some I sell, some I keep - all I display, at one time or another. Please, enjoy them... and again, should you have questions regarding any of the pieces, do not hesitate to ask me of them."
I asked about the painting, 'Gray Hag of Oinos.' She was able to confirm it depicted the hag Ravel Puzzlewell. I asked her about some of the other pieces in the galleria.
The Arcadian stained-glass window.
The hundreds of chips of translucent green glass which made up this stained-glass window didn't appear to be held together by anything, but rather remained free-floating and mysteriously suspended within the iron frame's boundaries. The shards rippled and moved in slow waves, causing bizarre patterns to fluctuate across the window's surface as various portions of it refracted the galleria's light in different directions.
Yvana's commentary: "A stained-glass window found hovering on the third layer of Arcadia thirty-two years ago, foretelling a scene that had yet to occur. When the event came to pass, the images faded to leave what you saw behind. It is believed to have captured both the light and the darkness from the Orb of Night and Day on Arcadia, then slowly release it, creating a brief but slow fade of dawning and dusk - but only within the glass itself."
"Arcadia is a Plane of peaceful order, also known as the Land of Perfect Good. The Orb of Night and Day is a sphere set in the top of Arcadia's highest peak; each half emits either light or darkness. The turning of the Orb gives Arcadia its day and night."
The battle-horn of Acheron.
A massive horn of beaten lead, wound with brazen chains. The horn was horribly mangled, as if some tremendous force had crushed it. Jagged blades protruded along its length, almost as if it were meant to be used as club by some gigantic creature, as well as a battle-horn.
Yvana's commentary: "Ah, the Cleansing Horn... a horn of beaten lead, metal drawn directly from the cube of Acheron. It is said that the Cleansing Horn last sounded where the Companies of the Jackal and the Gouged Eye Clans met for their battle at the Disputed Lands. Legends tell us that this horn's power was used near the battle's end to draw the floating cubes together, crushing the routing Company of the Jackal before it could escape."
"Acheron is a Plane of harshly enforced order, where conformity is more important than good. It is composed of gigantic, metallic cubes which float through an endless void... many cubes are large enough that cities or entire kingdoms have been built upon their faces."
The Dark Birds of Ocanthus.
Several shards of black crystal - or ice - swirled within the freezing wind that this ornate pedestal gave forth. Each shard looked razor sharp; touching or grabbing one could be perilous.
Yvana's commentary: "All of them are chipped from the great magical sheet of black, infinite ice that rests in the black belly of the Plane of Ocanthus. It is said that this sheet of ice is the final destination of the River Styx, and that the recollections of all that have plunged into the Styx's memory-destroying waters still lie frozen within the ice."
The ruby statuette.
It stood on a pedestal, carved into the image of a winged humanoid. The figure was either demonic or angelic in nature... but it was difficult to tell which, because it refracted the light in the galleria strangely. There was no placard indicating what, exactly, the statuette was.
Yvana's commentary: "That piece was found in a cathedral in the fertile fields of Elysium on the first layer, Amoria the Untroubled, where it bordered the River Oceanus. The name of the piece is not known, but the skill and craftsmanship are believed to be one of the most striking examples of gem crafting in the Planes. The mere way in which the piece captures, distills, and enhances the light through its facets is part of its breath-taking wonder. It seems to bring to light the possible ideological connection between even the most evil and the purest beings in the multiverse... fascinating."
The kyton's animate chain.
An animated, bloody iron chain, coiling and uncoiling upon itself. The chain itself seemed to bend and weave like the spine of a snake.
Yvana's commentary: "The chain comes from the city of Jangling Hiter, the city of chains that hangs on Minauros, third layer of the Plane of Baator. The chains there are the finest in the multiverse, but the inhabitants of Jangling Hiter are malicious and cruel, using the chains as living weapons against all that enter their city and violate their laws."
"Kytons move about the city of chains as spiders upon webs, adorned in chains woven tightly around their bodies. Kytons possess a power known as the 'gift of chains,' which allows them to manipulate chains with their minds. It is believed that my galleria's chain was animated during a battle in which the kyton controlling it was slain with a cursed hammer... its life essence then passing into the chain itself."
The statue of the screaming man.
The statue looked like it was about to make some angry proclamation. The sculptor had captured the essence of fury magnificently; the chiseled tension lines around the neck and forehead alone must have taken many long months to get correct. Fine cracks ran over the entire statue.
Yvana's commentary: "This statue is believed to be the final fate of the Etherserian sorcerer Gangroighydon. Attacked by a conclave of rival sorcerers at the height of his dream madness, he was imprisoned with a spell that turned his flesh into stone. Gangroighydon is said to have been frozen with a final, awful curse still upon his lips, a curse so terrible that it was *never* meant to be spoken by the lips of a living man."
"It is said that the fury of the curse was enough to blister the flesh from the bones of those that heard it, and that it could even shatter the stones themselves."
The painting 'Outland Raiders.'
Tall, black cliffs against a blood-red sky. There looked to be figures hiding amongst the crags of the cliffs but, whenever I squinted at the painting to try and make them out, the images faded into nothing.
Yvana's commentary: "An interesting piece, yes? The painter managed a most interesting effect with the forms in the cliff's shadows. The woman who brought me this piece told me she found it in an abandoned camp on the Outlands... the original painter was never found. Presumably, they were slain by the same raiders whose image they captured in the painting."
The painting 'The Folly of Udo.'
A dark cityscape, a far-away view of some giant center of civilization being burned to the ground. The streets of the place were empty, however, absent of soldiers, refugees, and even corpses.
Yvana's commentary: "This painting illustrates one of the legends of the Prime world Goha. Udo was a wizard-king of such skill and power that he set to casting a spell that would turn himself into a Power, and the people of his great nation into divine servants. With the spell's completion, lightning crashed down around Udo's palace setting it ablaze and, before the thunder had died away, the city was empty... not a living thing to be found. Over seventy-thousand people vanished, without a trace, in a heart-beat. No one knows the fate of Udo or his people."
The painting 'Moment's Glance from the Walls of Moch'chma.'
An abstract work of greens and purples, which writhed and rippled as it was watched.
Yvana's commentary: "Moch'chma is a githzerai fortress which floats in the Plane of Limbo. The Moment's Glance was painted by the chaos-scholar Dy, who remembers everything she sees with perfect clarity when she is not stricken with madness."
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